My Great-Great-Grandfather, a City Park and Some Monarch Butterflies

If only there were more habitat

In 1867, at the age of 36, my great-great-grandfather by adoption debarked from a ship at New York and traveled west by train to St. Louis, Missouri. James Gurney had been a gardener at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, responsible for breeding and growing Amazonian water lilies, including the famous Victoria, with pads large enough for a person to stand on and flowers of incomparable beauty--no mean feat in chilly England. He’d been selected to accompany a botanical expedition to Africa, but was unable to go. (This saved his life, since everyone on that trip died.) Instead, he headed to the US, where, once in St. Louis he got a job working for local philanthropist Henry Shaw, who had already established the Missouri Botanic Garden and was developing plans for the 280-acre Tower Grove Park to be located across the street.

Gurney was his man, though accounts differ as to whether Shaw, an Englishman, hired him over from Kew, or Gurney, on his way…

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